I could really break this up into two blogs but with it being all Kentucky Derby related I have decided to keep it all in one. Derby for me always starts months prior to the actual event. There is planning to be done and schedules to be made and this year was no different. The Haunted House where I work and I had an event to run and do media for and I had two parties I was scheduled to do makeup/body art for. Now that I think about it I was only scheduled for one party but I will get to that.
The haunted house where I manage makeup, the Devil’s Attic (www.thedevilsattic.com) also runs the Louisville Zombie Walk which is the biggest Zombie Walk of its kind with over 45,000 participants last year. This past fall our Haunt owner Jason told me about an opportunity that had been offered to us by one of the biggest festival’s in Kentucky. The Kentucky Derby is cool and all but it’s really all about the Kentucky Derby Festival (KDF) which goes on for about two weeks leading up to the horse race itself. The KDF wanted us to bring what we do for the Louisville Zombie Walk to their festival. What we came up with was the Derby of the Dead.
For Derby of the Dead I would be making 4 zombies. Two zombies would be for a local news stations, and the other 2 zombies would be for the day of the event. One of those zombies would be to work the crowd and the other one for a live demo. My team (Team Demon Fabulous) would also be making crowd walking zombies. Lucky for me EBA Performance Makeup ( https://www.europeanbodyart.com ) and Woochie FX ( https://www.woochie.com/ ) supplied me with makeup and prosthetics to make these zombies real show stoppers. I love EBA’s makeup but I had never actually applied a prosthetic before and the first time I would be doing it would be for a live news broadcast.
The first zombie I did for the news was on Morgan Dayton. Even though her segment was for Friday which was the day of the event it would be recorded the same day as or live segment which was the preceding Wednesday. On Morgan I didn’t use any prosthetics. I just did what I call a “Standard Paint Zombie” and played with some marbling techniques and layering. I was very happy with the way she turned out.
Rebecca Rhodes was going to be my Zombie for the live broadcast so I had her show up a little bit before Morgan at 7:30am. Having never applied a prosthetic I wanted to make sure I gave myself enough time. I laid on some pros-aide cream adhesive where the prosthetic would lay. While that set up I put some more of the adhesive on the back side of the prosthetic. This prosthetic was a half face, covering only the ocular sockets the cheeks, bridge of the nose and the forehead so it was pretty easy to place. Once it was in place I painted a layer of Pros-Aide on top of that to seal it before I powdered and painted it. Foam latex prosthetics are very sponge like and if you don’t seal them they just suck up all of your paint. Once you seal it with the pros-aide you have to powder it to keep it from being sticky. I base painted it with a mauve color to neutralize the yellows in the prosthetic before I painted it using the same color scheme I used on Morgan. For it being my first prosthetic application I was pretty pleased.
This is the live broadcast from WHAS Great Day Live! https://www.whas11.com/mobile/video/features/great-day-live/derby-of-the-dead-on-great-day-live/417-8107460
The day of the event I had distressed a jockey costume for our actor Jeff Howell who would be my “hero” zombie walking around the crowd. I would be applying the full face stage 3 zombie prosthetic from Woochie. Jeff was excited as he always is to be a zombie but I was concerned. Having only applied one facial prosthetic before this would be no small task. I could already tell it was too big for his face. I placed the prosthetic and secured the nose in place first and then worked from the top down making sure all my edges were good and seamless. After smoothing the prosthetic top to bottom there was a lot of slack left under the chin and neck area. I tried folding it over to make it look like wrinkled hanging flesh but it wouldn’t hold. I ended up having to cut a dart/triangle out of the part that wouldn’t hold and pulled it together. I then made a bridge with latex and deli paper. Once it was bridged I added some latex and cotton to give it some texture and then sealed it all. Painting the Woochie prosthetic with the EBA Performance makeup was probably my favorite part. The sculpt was great but before it gets paint it just looks lifeless, pardon the pun. I loved breathing life into it and was very happy with it. I named the character Pat Day of the Dead after the famous jockey Pat Day.
From there we packed up all of our gear and headed to the event. I was lucky that Tabby Sharp of youtube fame (https://www.youtube.com/user/tabs24x7Official ) agreed to be my subject for my demo makeup. She is so much fun and great to work with. After the issue with Jeff’s prosthetic I was worried the one for Tabby wouldn’t fit either as she is very tiny standing at 4’10. I placed it on her face and it looked like it may overlap just a bit on the sides but not enough to be incredibly noticeable with her hair down. The demo was taking place outside at the waterfront (Ohio River). As you can imagine airbrushing in high wind on a raised stage is not ideal. I had to wait for the wind to die down at times to try and paint otherwise none of the airbrush makeup would make it to her face.
I was also working against a time constraint. Due to scheduling conflicts I went from having an hour which was already pushing it down to 45 minutes. With Tabby’s bright pink hair and the colorful onsie she was wearing she looked like a piece of chewed up bubble gum when I based her in the pinkish mauve color. Once I was able to get my color scheme from EBA on her it all came together. With Tabby’s diminutive size it added an extra element of creepiness to the makeup.
I have been lucky enough in years past to book gigs for derby parties. About 2 months before the Derby I met with Josh Meredith of the Original Makers Club (OMC). The OMC was going to throw a huge Derby Eve bash at 21c which is an amazing art gallery and boutique hotel. I have worked there in the past and it is an fantastic venue and I was excited to work with Josh for the first time. I had done a makeup on my friend Katye Estes with a lot of geometric shapes which caught Josh’s eye and prompted him to reach out to me.
The inspiration for the party was based off the recent Gucci designs featuring a king snake and bright pink flowers. I knew straight away I was not going to paint a snake, at least not in any way that would be expected. I had looked up a bunch on snake body paints. I wasn’t looking for ways to do it but rather for what not to do especially since we wanted a more "Art Basel" feel. The body paints I found in my research went from more character based body paints to just painting on a full coiled up snake. What I came up with was using the king snake’s pattern as a sash. On the lower half of the snake sash I would do the pink flower’s emerging from underneath. On the upper half I would give Josh the geometric style which prompted him to call me in the first place. I liked the idea of the top being very structured and the bottom being more organic.
Upon entering 21c to start the body paints for the party I realized I had forgotten my air compressor for my airbrush. Fellow makeup artist and good friend Rebecca Rhodes was going to be my date for the party so I called her up right away. Rebecca was also my zombie for the above news spot. I asked her if she could be there a couple hours early and bring her compressor so that I could do the finishing touches with airbrush. I got to use 2 of my favorite models again for another doubles body paint. I had painted Karoline Hix and Mallory Mims as jockeys last year for a different party in the same venue which you can see on my body paint page. With this year’s body paint I started on the pink flowers first. As I was getting the flowers worked out Josh excitedly came in and wanted me to come take a look at how the party was coming together. When I was done with the flowers I popped out to check the event space. The main bar was covered in the King Snake pattern and there was a huge King Snake,… well,... snaking down the railing of the stairs. The décor had a very leathery almost snakeskin kind of feel to it. Luckily I had not started painting the snakes on the models because they had replaced the cream colored stripe of the king snake with gold.
Having seen the event space changed my color scheme. I of course changed the cream in the snake pattern to gold. The geometric shapes were originally supposed to be pink, red, and black. I changed out the pink for gold which gave the paint a more dynamic look. There were more than a few things that didn’t go my way on this paint and I was running out of time. I am a bit of a control freak and I never like to ask for help. I knew I didn’t want to sacrifice quality for speed. I was coming down to the wire and I am just glad I had a makeup artist there I could trust. I gave Rebecca the color scheme and asked if she would be able to knock out a few beauty looks and she stepped up in a big way.
Once the models walked into the party I got Rebecca and I some drinks. It’s always really cool to see people’s reactions to the body paints. They are always surprised that the models are only wearing a thong. That or they just don’t even realize they are nude and think it’s a skin suit. The geometric shapes I had painted revealed some bare skin which made it a little bit more apparent. The models and body paints seemed to be a hit at the party and Rebecca and I were able to relax and enjoy the festivities.
Everything had been months in the planning stages. That said the Monday before Derby I got a call from my friend Mike Brady from King Sixteen. I have worked with Mike and King Sixteen in the past and have always enjoyed it. They were doing a Derby party at Rabbit Hole Distillery. Mike has amazing ideas and always wants to have a wow factor. I am lucky enough that he calls on me to be a part of that.
I had sent Mike an image of a woman in a bathing suit made of reflective material that looked a bit like a stylized golden shattered mirror. When Mike asked if I could do something similar with 4 days until the event I quickly went out to try and find the materials I needed to accomplish the look. I knew I couldn’t get it exact because not only had the image I sent been edited heavily but the model didn’t need to move around in the material. She just had to pose for a photo, and could be reset in between shots. Ideally some sort of plastic formed to their bodies would have been perfect. It wasn't really in the budget and we definitely didn't have time for that. I needed something really reflective that was light weight that would flex with the body and wouldn’t crease too badly. I think the material I found was pretty close. Oddly the models that were cast already were Karoline and Mallory who I had worked with the night before with the addition of male model named Darren. I also added a dark smoky eye to all 3 models with some silver accents just to add a bit of sexiness.
Hunter S. Thompson has been famously over quoted as saying that, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved,” and he was not wrong. After all the Bourbon and late nights I was ready to give my body and liver a rest. That said, I am already looking forward to next year.